Some thoughts on remote working
1st August 2014
Remote work isn’t for everyone, and I’ve found that people who do it infrequently often fall into several easily-avoided traps, so I thought I’d highlight a few:
The danger of not planning your day
My role involves much interaction with my colleagues, and clients, often in multiple time zones, and if I don’t plan my day out properly and end up reacting to every email that comes in immediately, my productivity and quality of work suffer, and days can stretch out longer and longer.
Solution: there will be cases where one has to drop everything in an emergency, but I like trying to structure my day, and usually write down a list of 3+ things that I’m going to get done that day.
I usually check email first thing in the morning, and try to archive/delete things that aren’t relevant to me, before turning off email notifications if I can, and checking at designated times during the day.
Things that I need to action, I’ll often pop a quick reply to, and add to my backlog list of tasks. Most email is never super urgent, and if it is, you’ll often find that people call you in an emergency.
The lure of chores
Working at home, there will always be a rare occasion where you have to let a tradesman in to do something, but I generally pretend that when I’m working I’m not at home, so not available for any household chores.
It’s easy to accept requests of ‘can you just do…’ from family, who sees you being at home, but these can add up and impact your day.
Solution: For some people unused to remote work, they associate being at home with doing home-based things. Make it clear that you are working to family members, and work time is like any other office-work, and work somewhere you can close the door, so you can focus properly on work.
Lack of social interaction
I’m a pretty social person, and sometimes miss the day-to-day banter of an office.
Solution: I try and make sure I both make it up to see my team for some face-to-face time several times a year, and use really good online tools like Squiggle, Hangouts, and Chat, and also go out to local geek events to get my networking/social fix.
Is remote right for you?
Remote working is more suited to jobs that are knowledge/internet-based and some types of jobs just wouldn’t work remotely.
Working at home on your own takes discipline, but if you can think of and address the challenges it poses, then it offers tremendous flexibility and potential, both in location and quality of life.
It’s not for everyone, and while I think being co-located with your team can sometimes be better for communication, given the right tools, attitude and approach you can make it work.